BENGAL’s BANDH PERSPECTIVE: Blame it on tolerance

PERSPECTIVE: Blame it on tolerance – a bid to bandh the culture of bandhs ?!!

Just a chair and flag - citizens for peace ?!!


When I was growing up in Calcutta (and I refuse to call my beloved city by its new-found postal name, Kolkata) bandhs were days marked for playing cricket, for meeting school-friends without the burden of a uniform and basically having a daylong feast.

Often my father would tell me about the plight of day labourers, how business was suffering and how medical help would never come for those who needed it that day. But as children, we never cared.

When one grew up, one realised it was a political weapon, not to win a battle for something that would benefit the common man but instead a show of cowardly strength. A show of supposed solidarity between political parties which wanted to show they cared by actually hitting the poorest of the poor in the gut.

Bandhs have no ideology, they are a weak tool used by weak political parties for their own selfish purposes and it is not about which party engenders the most bandhs. It is about their lack of concern, their total disengagement from the aspirations of the people and their complete disbelief in the fact that in today’s times cities don’t shut down for political causes!

We are not fighting a cause as significant as freedom that we have to lock up people in their homes just so that the party which calls the bandh can brag to the world about its influence.

What influence do these wretched political parties talk about? How really strong are you when you use violence to stop people from working? How caring are you when you deprive the poor labourer his daily wage? How powerful are you when the infirm cannot access medical help on a bandh day?

Is this the face that Calcutta wants to always show? A city that paralyses itself for flimsy reasons? A city that will never be ready for serious business because those in power and those in opposition have lost the civility or the depth to fight for these issues in Assemblies?

Have we elected this bunch of jokers to hurl us into captivity at the drop of a hat? Is their only purpose in life to be disruptive and wilfully damage both livelihood and state assets such as buses and trains?

The bandh is no longer a symbol of people’s angst. It no longer represents the frustration of the governed. Instead, it is a symbol of our weakening polity and the fact that we today have pygmies, goons and hustlers pretending to be mass leaders who care for the people.

It is this ugly face that they rear with alarming regularity.

I was of the impression that the courts had passed orders against such bandhs but then of what use is that order when we see these bandhs every once a while? Why can’t the very same courts exert themselves and have people who call for the bandh itself locked up in jail?

Or will Calcutta have to brace itself for a lifetime of such terrible disruptions, where young BPO executives will find it hard to explain to the customer in California as to why they can’t process orders, thanks to a bandh?

Have we ever calculated the loss not just of commerce but of face when these bandhs happen? Does anyone really care? And if we do, can the people hit back? Why should I get beaten up if all I want is to go to work? Why must children be deprived of their school-day just because some silly politician doesn’t understand the value of that education?

The answer must now lie with the people. Tolerance of bandhs should not suggest our compliance to these politicians.

Enjoying a game of cricket because you have nothing else to do must not signify that commerce can be sacrificed at the altar of a forced holiday and someone needs to tell these political parties that enough damage has been done to Brand Calcutta.

We don’t need these bandhs. We need the city to be open. For business. For medical care. For school and for leading a normal life. These jokers very rarely can do us good; why are they depriving us of the good we can do for ourselves by earning a hard day’s wage?

Break & deny parents’ right – politics of destruction and disruption, a

Mondal and Bhattacharjee - poles apart ?!!

cultural trait in Bengal ?!!

The parents of Pronab Mondal, The Telegraph’s principal correspondent whose hand was broken by CPM activists last Friday, could not make the trip from their Barasat home to the EM Bypass hospital on Tuesday because of the bandh. Their son had undergone surgery on his fractured forearm on Monday night, and his parents Paresh Chandra Mondal and Renu Mondal had not seen him after that.

Paresh Chandra Mondal, a retired BSNL employee, expresses his helplessness as a citizen and a parent trapped in a state of political violence.

I am proud my son is a journalist. I am ashamed that I live in a state where the political forces prevent him from doing his job and his parents from seeing him in hospital.

On Friday, they broke his left forearm in Pirakata (West Midnapore). On Tuesday, they prevented his mother Renu and me from reaching Apollo Gleneagles, the morning after a steel plate was inserted so that he could hold up his hand again.

Today, we know more than ever before that we are all victims of the politics of destruction and disruption.

What can ordinary citizens like me do to protest the violence every day, be it by the Maoists or the CPM or someone else? I don’t even have the nerve to raise my voice, though I realise it is a shame to live in such perpetual fear.

Every civilised country allows freedom to its journalists. But no one from the party responsible for the attack on my son has apologised for his condition, no one has publicly expressed remorse for the plight of his parents.

Parents like us are trapped in this cycle of violence.

Tuesday’s Calcutta was as violent for me as Friday’s Pirakata, though there may not have been bloodshed on the road. There was no way I could have reached my son as his post-operation sedatives wore off. There was no way I could reach Renu to her son.

The bandh was very “successful” — there was not a rickshaw on the road near our place (Hridaypur in Barasat). But “spontaneous”?

We are ordinary people. I was in a temple for an evening prayer on Friday when a neighbour asked if I had seen the TV news bulletin. Why? I soon realised.

My son was there on the screen, limping into a hospital (in Midnapore town) with his swollen left arm hanging from a sling. I tried to call him but the line was busy. When I got through, he assured me he was all right but for the pain in his left arm. “It is getting worse with every passing moment,” he said.

An X-ray confirmed that he had suffered a fracture. But he had to stay the night in Midnapore. Travelling after sundown has its own share of risks in that part of Bengal. For us, it was almost a night without end.

Mothers tend to worry more than fathers. Renu woke me up several times that night, asking if he was all right. We lay awake wondering, is everyone telling us the whole story? Could his hand actually shield his head? What about the bamboo blows on his back?

There’s a war on, for turf. The political parties, whatever their colours, have a single aim — to retain or reclaim turf. We have to live with this because we cannot call a bandh to protest the politics of destruction and disruption or defy a bandh.

Pronab was admitted to hospital on Saturday and Renu and I went there every day to be by his side. On Tuesday, we were denied even that right.

Yes, the bandh was very “successful”.


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